The Electoral Finance Act is the gift that goes on giving.
The NZ Herald today reveals that Labour has had to centralise every single proposed communication by a candidate or MP, with a committee of two head officer staffers and three parliamentary staffers (yes parliamentary staffers approving election material).
So no candidate can put anything out until the weekly committee meeting approves it.
The act had broadened the definition to mean any form of words or graphic that could reasonably be regarded as designed to encourage or persuade someone to support a party or candidate.
The act is not working in the way that Labour had anticipated because it expected that most material its MPs produced under parliamentary funding would not be counted as election expense, whereas the Electoral Commission has no regard as to how material is funded.
It is actually established case law that it does not matter who pays for election adverts, as to whether they are adverts and expenses. Labour and allies tried to subtly change the law, but failed.
New Zealand First’s weekend post-Budget advertising campaign was paid for by taxpayers and carried a parliamentary crest, but was authorised as an election ad.
That means the party can’t be prosecuted if it is found to be an election ad _ but the cost of it will have to be counted against the party’s total election expenses.
This is correct that NZ First has no issues under the EFA. They are authorised and there is no way they will come close to their spending limit.
However I do wonder about The Parliamentary Service approving them, and whether the Auditor-General should be taking a look at them. The NZ First advertisements are blatant advertisements implicitly calling on people to support them if they want lower GST and more money for pensioners (Winston isn’t too hot on the idea of spending less than you bring in). Now Labour, Greens and NZ First passed a special law to make it easier for their election advertisements to be funded by the taxpayer. However even under this new law, the NZ First ads are pushing the boundaries. I really think the Auditor-General should take a look.